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How 5 Small Firms Handle High Gas Prices

AdvantaClean Systems; Huntersville, N.C.
Before even gas prices took a bite out of the bottom line, AdvantaClean Systems CEO and founder Jeff Dudan was looking to cut costs to avoid raising prices for customers.

The emergency water and mold remediation company has 70 franchisees in 19 states.

Jobs are usually so big they require more than one van, Dudan says, but franchisees are starting to attach trailers instead, and many use the Mercedes-Benz Sprinter to shuttle equipment between locations. It looks like a large cargo van, but because it is a four-cylinder vehicle, saves a lot on gas.

Dudan also sees franchisees becoming more compliant with the company's best practices. While AdvantaClean uses a central call system to route jobs to the franchisee closest to a job, in the past some would do a job even if it wasn't in their home territory. Now, rather than drive what could be miles out of their territory, a franchisee is much more likely to hand over a job.

"What we see is people a little less likely to drive out and do very small jobs," Dudan says.

The company is also using new equipment that is faster and lighter and should lead to fewer return trips to a job site.

There are also little things the company is doing to make sure a job is worth the price in fuel, such as confirming appointments; making sure the job is large enough to be considered profitable for a franchisee; and "route optimization" with Google (GOOG) maps.

"Other than that we run a pretty tight ship regardless of what the gas prices are," Dudan says. "None of our people have office staff, or very few, because we handle so much of the back office centrally , so there is just not a lot of places to get more efficient."

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